Thousands of Mizoram Students Boycotted the Republic Day Celebration Over Citizenship (Amendment) Bill

CITIZENSHIP (AMENDMENT) BILL 

Students groups in Mizoram mobilize to assert themselves against the Citizenship Amendment Bill and stress discontent over granting citizenship to the Chakma population from Bangladesh.

Priyanka Yadav |The New Leam

As grand celebrations marked the Republic Day in the Capital, thousands of students in Mizoram boycotted it. Image Source: The News Mill

As grand celebrations marked the Republic Day in the Capital, thousands of students in Mizoram boycotted it. It was on January 22, 2019 that more than 30,000 protesters from across the state came out onto the streets to protest the Citizenship Amendment Bill.  The students burnt effigies of the prime minster and other leaders as they marched. The Bill seeks to give citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Bill has been widely condemned in the north-east for being against the rights of the Muslims and for giving citizenship to the undocumented illegal migrants from the neighbouring nations. Another reason why the Mizo population is against the Bill is granting Indian citizenship to the Chakmas( who migrated from Bangladesh). The Mizo people consider them to be illegal migrants and don’t want them to have Indian citizenship.

Two NGOs in Mizoram- Zirlai Pawl MZP and the Young Mizo Association called for a state wide boycott of Republic Day celebrations in Mizoram. The NGO reportedly did not allow any official of the state government to attend the function. Two IAS officers were blocked on their way to the celebration ground as reported. The NGO together with the people of Mizoram are protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016.

Disillusionment About  Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016

The bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by the BJP led NDA government to amend the Citizenship Act 1955. This Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on January 8. The amended bill provides Indian Citizenship to illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists,Jains, Parsis and Christians from the neighbouring nations such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

As per the revised Bill, people belonging to the above mentioned categories are entitled to get Indian citizenship if they have been residing in India for 6 years or more. This is a relaxation provided by the government as earlier the minimum period of residency was 12 years (during last 12 months and for 11 of the previous 14 years).The bill also mentions to cancel the registration overseas citizen of India if they violate any law.

The main point of contestation with the Bill is the vaguely defined category of illegal migrants as the Bill does not seek to differentiate between an illegal migrant and a refugee. The other issue with the Bill is that of partiality towards minority communities as the Bill does not seek to provide citizenship to Muslims or other minorities from the neighbouring countries. The bill is charged to be non-inclusive as it is keeping a majority non-minority away from its ambit. Non-inclusive nature of the Bill raises many questions on the central and the state government which is dominated by BJP government. The secular fabric of the country is under threat if the bill is passed.

Another important point of disagreement with the Bill arises from the clause of overseas citizen, where the Bill states a provision to cancel the registration of overseas citizens if any law is violated. This clause is quite vaguely designed as violation of law has a broad connation to itself. It is a wide category which can involve minor to major violations and if for all of them the registration is at stake, a large ambiguity or inconvenience in the state is foreseen.

Why are the Mizo people protesting against the Bill?

People of Mizoram are protesting against the Bill specifically on the clause which provides citizenship status to illegal migrants. If this happens then the people of the state fear that people belonging to Chakma community in Mizoram will get citizenship as well.

Chakma community is the largest ethnic group with a Tibeto-Burman origin. They are believed to be a native of Arakan Yoma North, Chin State and upon migration they transitioned to Bangladesh and north eastern parts of India. Chakmas hold the status of scheduled tribes in the state of Mizoram. The two groups- majority Mizos and minority Chakmas have been living in the state fighting each other. Chakmas are considered as enemies by the Mizo group and further given refugee status in India.Tension between the two groups started when the Chakmas migrated from Bangladesh after the armed conflict Shanti Bahini. After their migration to India, the Indian government accommodated these refugees in relief camps constructed in Tirap, Lohit, and Subansiri districts of the erstwhile North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) now renamed as Arunachal Pradesh. People of north-east region were disappointed by this move of the government as it made them obligated to share their scarce resources. Since then both the groups’ Mizos and the Chakma stand facing their back to each other.With the introduction of the Bill, Chakma refugees will get Indian citizenship which is a matter of concern for the Mizo people. Bangladesh earlier did agree to accommodate them but Chakmas fear going back to Bangladesh and seek accommodation in India.

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